Anyone who only uses it to watch the skating competitions during the Beijing Winter Games could easily miss out on some Dutch successes. In the skeleton ‘we’ suddenly have a chance of winning a medal with Kimberley Bos and something beautiful is also glistening in slopestyle (snowboard). “But it’s so close together.”

Niek van der Velden immediately tempers expectations. Because the 21-year-old Dutchman, who came second for the first time in a World Cup competition at the beginning of January, knows: things can also go wrong. If he takes the rail a fraction of a second too soon, all hope is gone. Does he land wrong after a triple cork 1620? Even then he can whistle for Olympic success.

“The level is so close to each other. Anyone who qualifies for the final can just come on the podium. It’s not about who is the strongest for us either. It’s about who has the best day. Who is the best gets out of bed, so to speak. I think that’s nice too.”

In Laax, Switzerland, Van der Velden was not the best out of bed. He finished eighth. But he is rising again in the general classification and will travel to Beijing as the number two of the world cup standings.

He has already explored the slopes in China once. “I went there once three years ago. Then I came fourth, which was a very good result. There will be some adjustments, but for the most part it is the same. The park is built by the same crew.”

Good shape

Van der Velden is going there with a good feeling, not least because of his current form. He just missed out on the win at Mammoth Mountain in California a week earlier. “With that I finally won my qualifying. So I could focus on some other things here in Laax. I also took a little more risk here.”

Melissa Peperkamp could also take risks. Because she was already certain of participating in the Winter Games. She finished seventh in Laax, which also lifted her to second place in her World Cup standings. But she also quickly tempers expectations: “The eight of us are so close to each other, that’s really ridiculous. It’s about the details, each time it’s just what a jury likes.”

That doesn’t mean the seventeen-year-old is without confidence right now. “I would have liked better today. Sure. You always go for gold. But it went very well. I landed two runs and in the second run I had a little more tricks. I also improved my score, I couldn’t have done more than that. to do.”

17 years

Four years ago, Van der Velden had as many springs as Peperkamp now: seventeen. For him, it went wrong in training just before his first Olympic appearance. He never got around to his debut. “Do I still think about four years ago? I can hope that I can really get the start gates for the race now. But that has to be all right. I’m looking forward to it.”

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